Theodore Roosevelt and his traveling companion Russell J. Coles. (Below left) Arthur Gibson. Library of Congress photo above and Gibson photo courtesy Tim Dunlop
Theodore Roosevelt and his traveling companion Russell J. Coles. (Below left) Arthur Gibson. Library of Congress photo above and Gibson photo courtesy Tim Dunlop

 President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt is forever ingrained in Captiva history. Roosevelt Channel and Roosevelt Beach are named in his honor from his famed fishing visits in 1913 and 1917. Numerous island residents at that time had the pleasure of meeting him personally, but only a few stories still remain from those days.

Arthur Gibson

In 1900, a young boy of 12 years arrived on Sanibel with his parents, Amanta and Clementine (Hall) Gibson, and his three younger sisters, Marria, Bessie, and Leonie. While his father worked as a farm laborer, Arthur explored Sanibel and Captiva. At the age of 22, he got caught in the Big Storm of 1910.

At this time, he was employed as a mail carrier and was on a steamer when the hurricane began to wreck havoc on the island. Arthur and his co-worker were able to steer the 34-foot launch to Wulfert, where they hunkered down in a vacant house. During the storm, the launch broke loose, sank and scattered all the mailbags along the beach.

Elinore Dormer explains in her book, The Sea Shell Islands: A History of Sanibel and Captiva:

Somehow, the boatmen retrieved all thirteen soggy sacks and hung them on the mangroves to dry. Then, cleaning the muck and debris out of the boat, they patched a little, straightened the rudder and eventually, got the motor running.”

The two men, made it to Fort Myers 27 hours late, but still delivered all of the mail. But this was met with frustration and anger by the recipients who complained about the condition of the mail. The Post Office Department had to come to Arthur’s defense and sent an official letter stating that “unequivocally that Arthur Gibson was in no way responsible for an Act of God.”

Meeting Roosevelt

Three years after the Big Storm, Roosevelt made his first fishing trip to Captiva. His barge, which measured 60 by 20 feet, basically had a house on it and was rented from the Punta Gorda Fish Company, where he would arrive by train then head to Captiva.

Once at Captiva, Roosevelt would then have his personal secretary send a note to the Captiva Post Office which read, “President Roosevelt is stationed at Captiva Pass, and he would be pleased to have any resident of Sanibel and Captiva visit any Sunday.” He kept Monday through Saturday as no visiting so he could fish.


Girl Almost Drowned Chasing Teddy


Only one person visited the ex-president during the week and that was when Margaret Mickle, known as Maggie, swam out to his barge to take his picture and get his autograph for a friend of hers. She caused such a ruckus that Roosevelt emerged from the house and invited her on board.

In his later years, Arthur told relatives one story of “about ten of us sailed up in a sailboat alongside the president and stopped and hollered ‘hello!’ And he came out on deck and said, ‘Hello, I’m Teddy Roosevelt. Who are you people? Come on board and tell me what your names are!’”

Roosevelt was very cordial, shook hands with everyone and always remembered their names. Of course he loved to talk of fishing and hunting and shared stories of his adventures and safaris, according to Arthur.

Dressed in his bibbed blue overalls and a blue chambray shirt, straw hat with a big brim, he would fish for hours trying to snag sharks and devil-fish. Arthur said, “he was a fight-man and loved a good fight!”

Not long after their meeting, Arthur heard and related a story of how Roosevelt “hooked a giant devil-fish near Captiva, nearly 30 feet across and weighing more than two tons. Fifty 30-caliber bullets were fired into it after an all day fight.” It is unknown if he actually reeled it in for a catch.

After The Roosevelt Visits

It was not long after the Roosevelt visits that Arthur married a girl by the name of Beulah. The couple lived in Fort Myers and Arthur was employed as a machinist and pile driver. He was described as “short, stout, black eyes, and black hair,” according his WWI draft card.

His father died in 1918, and his mother moved in with them in 1920 until her death in 1929.

In the mid 1930s, Arthur and Beulah welcomed a daughter into the world, and christened her with the name Bettie.

Beulah died in 1968 and Arthur two years later in 1970. Both are buried in the Captiva Cemetery.


Timothy Jacobs

T.M. Jacobs, authorTimothy Jacobs is owner of Jacobs Writing Consultants in Fort Myers. He is a member of the Southwest Florida Historical Society and serves on the Corporate Board of the Gulf Coast Writers Assoc. Jacobs has authored six books, including the recently published Almost Home: The 1864 Diary of Sergeant Samuel E. Grosvenor. The book is available at amazon.com (http://buff.ly/11MZIBI) and has been featured in both the Santiva Chronicle and on CSPAN2's Book TV (http://buff.ly/11N0Chy).